The first of at least two and as many as four meetings — including the region and state championships — between No. 1 Mountain View and No. 2 Mesa almost didn’t live up to the hype.
The Jackrabbits trailed by 14 points early in the fourth quarter but rallied to briefly tie their city rivals before finally succumbing in a 62-59 loss Friday night at Mountain View. With the win, Mountain View (18-0, 5-0 in region) forged a twogame lead over the defending region and state champions and maintained its one-game lead over No. 5 Dobson.
The game was played before a sellout crowd of around 1,900 rowdy fans, some of whom began lining up for tickets at 3:30 p.m. The doors to the gym were locked an hour before tipoff, but at least 100 fans still waited outside hoping seats would be made available after the junior varsity game.
None of those inside were about to give up their seat.
"Oh wow — it was just so much fun," said Mountain View senior David Burrows, who scored a game-high 18 points. "People were talking about it all week. . . . It’s the best feeling (to play in this atmosphere). I can’t explain it."
Much of the atmosphere began to die off as the Toros built a 14-point lead in the third quarter and carried it into the final period. But when leading scorer Harper Kamp picked up his fourth foul on a charging call 40 seconds into the quarter, the game was on.
With Kamp on the bench, Mesa (13-2, 3-2) went on a 20-6 run that was punctuated when Graham Hatch split two defenders on the wing, exploded to the basket and threw down a one-handed dunk to tie the game at 55 with 1:45 to play. Hatch scored eight points during the run.
The tie was short-lived.
Mountain View’s Stephen Rogers answered Hatch’s dunk when he scored on an offensive putback and, after a Hatch miss, Toros sophomore Kendall Wallace hit both foul shots of a 1-and-1 opportunity to push the lead to four points with 29.6 seconds to go.
Mesa cut the lead back to three points with 10.1 seconds to play, but Wallace converted two more free throws to put the game away.
"I just kept thinking it was going in and stuck to my routine," Wallace said. "I’m just glad that my coaches gave me an opportunity to play in this kind of game."
The lead changed hands seven times before halftime and neither team led by more than three points until Wallace scored on a transition layup in the closing seconds of the second period to make the score 31-27.
Mountain View returned to the court intent on getting the ball inside, and the Jackrabbits went cold at the other end of the floor, shooting just 3-of-10 in the period. The result was an 18-8 quarter for the Toros that gave them a 14-point cushion heading into the final period.
"We kind of struggled (in the third quarter). That was probably the game," Mesa coach Shawn Lynch said.
The Toros would need every bit of the cushion as Hatch — spurred on by the Mesa student section’s cries of "carry on" — led his team back into the game. Hatch scored 15 points and fellow senior Matt Komenda added 16 to lead the Jackrabbits.
Kamp scored 12 points, all before he picked up his fourth foul.
"It hurt (to lose Kamp), and they made a run," Burrows said. "They’re a good team, and they’re expected to do that."
The two teams meet again Feb. 8 at Mesa High.